The US presence in Iraq is unique for a number of reasons, one of them being the number of female troops serving there.
This has resulted in the proportional escalation in sexual harassment that has taken place. Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski testified to the horrific conditions female recruits are subjected to. Female soldiers are instructed to be accompanied by someone when they visit latrines. Naturally this is extremely inconvenient when nature calls in the middle of the night.
Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women’s latrine after dark.
“Because the women were in fear of getting up in the darkness [to go to the latrine], they were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon,” Karpinski testified, according to a report on Truthout.org. “In the 100 degree heat, they were dying of dehydration in their sleep.”
One of the most infamous stories is that of Suzanne Swift, a women who enlisted in the military. Having been sexually harassed and abused, she chose not to report for duty after leave, having had her complaints ignored by the authorities.
She was arrested and confined to base for going AWOL in 2006, after charges of sexual harassment and assault went unaddressed by the military. She says she was sexually harassed and abused by her commanders in Iraq and in the US.
Clearly, the treatment of women in the US military demands to be addressed. Most disturbing of all is that, if this is the way the military treat their own, it boggles the mind as to how they can possibly hope to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.